Discouragement versus Encouragement: The Continuing Conflict
No matter how many years we have known Christ or how fervent our belief in the Scriptures, we will never be totally free from the attacks of discouragement. Even in my 80s and having known the overcoming strength of the Lord Jesus for 64 years, I have been solidly hit with this old and constant weapon of the enemy. But, along with being well acquainted with discouragement, I have also grown in the wisdom of quick, honest confession and renewed yielding to our Lord. I share disgust about my continuous failings, brokenness over the struggles of people I care for, and the impotence of Christians about the Savior’s cross in this sick and stupid world. Yet, nothing is more refreshing to my mind and heart than to tell the Lord the truth about myself (which He already knows!) and sense His cleansing forgiveness, encouragement, and renewal. I share with you here a great new word He gave me in one of my recent bouts of discouragement.
As I confessed to my spirit of doubt and depression, my words to the Lord were something like this: “Father, I don’t think I’ve ever been more discouraged!” Of course, I probably have, but it’s interesting how we forget the pains of the past and concentrate only on the current moment. Nevertheless, as I poured out my complaint, the Lord spoke to me with an insight I had never before conceived. The voice of the Spirit went something like this: “I know it’s discouraging, H., but you need to realize that just because you’re in a discouraging situation, it doesn’t mean you have to be discouraged by it. Discouragement is simply a sign you have put your hope and expectations in the wrong place. Why choose discouragement when I am always ready to offer you encouragement? Don’t you realize yet that authentic courage never comes from what’s going on around you, but from what I have said about my plans for you? And those plans include right now, not just your future!”
Armed with this stunning and refreshing thought, my mind raced back to Scripture and my previous experiences of victory. I recalled an article I had written on the Triune analysis of every event of life. There are always three things we need to evaluate and on which we must build our daily discipleship. Experience teaches us all that neither the best nor the worst in life is what ultimately matters, but the most that we can find in Christ. Our most from Him always trumps and dominates the best or worst that comes to us in the world.
Realizing this afresh, I not only asked the Lord’s forgiveness for letting myself become discouraged, but also for my dense and plodding slowness in recognizing the true source of authentic courage. Because my future destiny is permanently set on a “trajectory for the good”, it’s silly and faithless to allow myself to be overcome by the temporary “bullets of the bad.”
When the Scripture promises the Lord will use all things to the good of those who keep on loving Him, it really means it (Romans 8:28)! Fortified with this renewed truth and refinement to my practical theology, I have a solid determination, from here on, not to be discouraged personally, no matter the nature of the discouraging situation. Such circumstances will always exist, but I can always ask myself the “courage question” and know the answer before I ask it: “H., when was the last time God let you down?”
“There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.” —Philippians 1:6 (MSG)
“For I know the plans I have for you”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” —Jeremiah 29:11 (HCSB)